Remembering Albéric O'Kelly de Galway

Remembering Albéric O'Kelly de Galway


Albéric Joseph Rodolphe Marie Robert Ghislain O'Kelly de Galway (17 May 1911, Anderlecht – 3 October 1980, Brussels) was a Belgian chess Grandmaster (1956), an International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1962), and the third ICCF World Champion in correspondence chess (1959–1962). He was also a chess writer.

Pomar vs. O'Kelly, 1962 Olympiad

He is one of five Grandmasters who were born on this day in Chess History, May 17th. The others are:

  1. Goran M Todorovic of Serbia (Formerly Yugoslavia); born in 1963, he became a GM in 1997, and I featured him last year on the "Today's Grandmaster" of my live stream at
  2. James Howell of England was born in 1967 and became a GM in 1995.
  3. Alexander Moiseenko of Ukraine was born in 1980 and became a GM in 1999.
  4. Daniil Lintchevski of Russia was born in 1990 and became a GM in 2009.

O'Kelly won the Belgian championships thirteen times between 1937 and 1959. He placed first at Beverwijk 1946. In 1947, he became one of Europe's leading players, having finished first at the 1947 European Zonal tournament at Hilversum, tied for first place with Pirc at Teplice Sanov, and tied for second at Venice. The next year, O'Kelly finished first at São Paulo ahead of Eliskases and Rossetto. He placed first at Dortmund 1951. O'Kelly finished first at the round-robin Utrecht 1961 with 6½/9.

In 1958, he was awarded the Belgian decoration of the Golden Palm of the Order of the Crown, for his chess successes and the distinction he had brought to the nation.

O'Kelly was made an International Arbiter in 1962 and was the chief arbiter of the world championship matches between Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky in 1966 and 1969. In 1974, he was the arbiter for the Moscow Karpov–Korchnoi match.

Alberic O'Kelly drawing lots for the 1974 World Championship Match

He spoke French, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, and Russian fluently, and also some Italian. He published many books and articles, often in languages other than French. As a youth, he took lessons from the legendary Akiba Rubinstein.

O'Kelly was descended from John O'Kelly, an Irish-born British army officer who was granted a nobility title in 1720 in what was then the Austrian Low Countries. Consequently, he was often addressed as 'Count O'Kelly de Galway', for example on the front cover of his 1965 book about Petrosian.